Keeping an eye on Communist, Totalitarian China, and its influence both globally, and we as Canadians. I have come to the opinion that we are rarely privy to truth regarding the real goal, the agenda of Red China, and it's implications for Canada [and North America as a whole]. No more can we rely on our media as more and more information on China is actively being swept under the carpet - not for consumption.
Sunday, February 28, 2016
Seduced and Abandoned Tony Blair and Wendi Deng
Seduced and AbandonedTony Blair and Wendi Deng
Rupert Murdoch and Wendi Deng aboard his yacht Morning Glory in New York Harbor, June 22, 1999, three days before their wedding. He was 68, and she was 30.
The passionate note surfaced amid the flotsam of a shipwrecked marriage. It was written in broken English by a woman to herself, pouring out her love for a man called Tony. "Oh, shit, oh, shit," she wrote. "Whatever why I'm so so missing Tony. Because he is so so charming and his clothes are so good. He has such good body and he has really really good legs Butt . . . And he is slim tall and good skin. Pierce blue eyes which I love. Love his eyes. Also I love his power on the stage . . . and what else and what else and what else . . . "
The woman was Wendi Deng Murdoch, the Chinese wife of the Australian media mogul Rupert Murdoch. The note, not revealed until now, could have been one of the few pieces of evidence in their surprise divorce last year, had the case come to trial. "Tony" was the former prime minister of Great Britain, Tony Blair.
Later, some would claim that Rupert felt betrayed by the close relationship between Wendi and Tony, who was his trusted companion and powerful political ally. Others would insist that Wendi and Tony were just friends, and that the handsome statesman was merely comforting the lonely wife of an absent and distant older husband.
Rupert Murdoch is one of the wealthiest individuals in America. His empire includes newspapers around the globe, the 21st Century Fox movie studio, the Fox TV network, and the publishing house Harper-Collins. In the years between the Murdochs' marriage, in 1999, and their divorce, 14 years later, a story emerged that could have come right off the pages of one of the tabloids produced by News Corporation, Murdoch's media conglomerate, complete with all the usual lurid ingredients: sex, lies, power, money, charges of infidelity.
The dénouement began with the backstairs rumblings of servants. Murdoch, 82, had long heard rumors that his 45-year-old wife was involved in extramarital affairs. But when those rumors grew to include too familiar a relationship with Blair, according to a former News Corp. employee in the U.K., "that was something that really took him aback." After all, through the power of The Sun, and his other London newspapers, the TimesandNews of the World, Murdoch had virtually put Blair into office, and Blair had become not only a valued friend but also the godfather of Grace, the older of Rupert and Wendi's two daughters. (Through a representative, Tony Blair declined to be interviewed. After the announcement of the divorce last June, The Hollywood Reporter published a categorical denial from Blair's office.)
'She got careless," the source continues. "And for whatever reason, these affairs . . . they started to multiply and be amplified over the last year. In particular, the two relationships that have been commented on (in the press): Eric Schmidt [the executive chairman of Google] and Tony Blair. Really shocking. Because when you look at the Blair piece, she would make up an excuse to be somewhere. She would say she's going up to the ranch in Carmel with a girlfriend. And the girlfriend would leave, and Mr. Blair would turn up, and they would have a day or night. . . . There was staff around, and when you're dealing with Tony Blair, there's secret service,(Joint statement from Wendi and Rupert Murdoch: "Given the complicated dynamics of our family, we made the decision early on in this process not to engage in public allegations or respond to negative claims." Through her representative, Chris Giglio, Wendi Deng Murdoch declined to be interviewed or answer questions.)
Murdoch's cattle ranch sprawls across 1,000 acres of highlands in Carmel, California. He bought it in the early 1990s with Anna, his wife of 31 years, as a vacation respite for his family and select officers of News Corp. That was where, in the autumn of 2012 and the spring of 2013, events allegedly occurred that would lead to the end of Murdoch's marriage to his third wife.
During their marriage, Wendi had blossomed from what Rupert had first described to his children as "a nice Chinese lady," whose only goal in life seemed to be pleasing him, into a star in her own right. She became a movie producer, a benefactor of the arts, a force in fashion, and a renowned networker, with rich and powerful friends. She had given Rupert two beautiful daughters, Grace, now 12, and Chloe, 10, who, through a trust, own the ranch in Carmel.
Murdoch's staff slowly began to keep tabs on Wendi, according to the source, whom they found to be often bad-tempered, but they were hesitant to tell their boss their suspicions of infidelity. Last summer, however, Murdoch told friends, he met with staff members individually and asked them to tell him the truth. They gave him detailed accounts of his wife's meetings with Blair.
"Mr. Blair was reluctant at first," says someone who has worked in a Murdoch family home. "They were all mutual friends; there was no reason Mr. Murdoch wouldn't have welcomed Mr. Blair into his home. But one day Mr. Blair arrived and Mrs. Murdoch was sort of being very flirtatious. She was charming him. He asked the staff, 'When is Mr. Murdoch going to arrive?' And when he was told, 'Tomorrow night,' Mr. Blair rolled his eyes and gave a panicked look."
On October 7, 2012, a Sunday, Wendi had told Rupert that she was having a girls' weekend at the ranch, according to the former News Corp. employee. She had become part of a cabal of strong, successful women, and such girls' weekends had become common in the marriage, whether on Rupert's 184-foot sailboat, Rosehearty, on his boat off St. Barth's, or at the Golden Door spa, in Escondido, California. That weekend, according to the source, Rupert's mother, Dame Elisabeth, 103, "had been sent home from the hospital, and the family was going to gather, because she was expected to die within a few days. [She died two months later.] Nonetheless, Wendi went up to the ranch."
Only one girlfriend, Kathy Freston, the self-help author and estranged wife of former Viacom C.E.O. Tom Freston (V.F.'s "Our Man in Kabul"), joined Wendi, the source continues. "The girlfriend was up there but left early . . . and Tony Blair arrived on Sunday, which is confirmed by someone who saw him at the ranch."
That same weekend, Kathy Freston attended an event where some of Rupert Murdoch's friends saw her. "The cover was sort of blown," says the source. (Asked to be interviewed, Kathy Freston responded, "I'd prefer not to be involved in this, and besides, I don't have anything interesting to say.") "Wendi then left on Monday," the source continues. "What's interesting is that her husband had been trying to reach Tony on a different subject and ended up speaking to him the next week by phone. But he didn't mention that he had seen Wendi, as you can imagine. Around this time, Blair was actively and successfully soliciting funds for his foundation from her husband."
Other meetings of Wendi and Blair's, allegedly witnessed by reputable sources, occurred at the Carlyle hotel, in New York, on a private yacht, and in Murdoch's home on St. James Place, in London, where Blair had been seen coming and going at odd times, which suggested they weren't having a business meeting, says the former News Corp. employee.
One meeting took place at the end of April 2013. "That Thursday, Wendi arrived at the ranch for a weekend, which was supposedly to be spent alone," says the source. "And on Saturday, April 27, Blair arrived again [on a private jet, with his security detail]."
"He was looking for Mrs. Murdoch," says someone who has worked in a Murdoch home. "At one point the staff told him she had gone to her room, the master bedroom. By the time the staff could tell her that Mr. Blair was looking for her, they caught Mr. Blair walking into the master bedroom and closing the door behind him. On another occasion, they were feeding each other during dinner, which made the staff uncomfortable. It was just the two of them."
"They flew together the following day to Los Angeles," continues the former News Corp. employee, "in time for a dinner to be co-hosted by the Murdochs in aid of Blair's foundation-that, for Murdoch, was the straw that broke the camel's back. It was such a betrayal that it led Murdoch to look at other things."
These included an alleged overnight stay by Wendi at the Beverly Hills Hotel with Eric Schmidt. "She said she was going to stay at a girlfriend's house and was going to go hiking early the next morning," says an individual who has worked with Murdoch. "She left with an overnight bag and came back the next morning in the same clothes, and the workout clothes were untouched. There was a valet tag on her car that said 'BEVERLY HILLS HOTEL AND BUNGALOWS,' and it had Eric Schmidt's name on it." (Eric Schmidt declined to comment. However, someone familiar with the parties said, "Many people know that the Beverly Hills Hotel is one of the places where Eric Schmidt regularly stays in L.A. So something connecting him to the hotel isn't proof of anything.")
These accounts, according to the source, led Murdoch to file divorce papers last June, blindsiding the woman he had met when she was working at his Star TV network, in Hong Kong. The petition states that the marriage had "broken down irretrievably." The divorce was settled in November, sparing the couple the spectacle of a trial. But questions remain: If the allegations are true, how could the powerful press lord, who supposedly knows all, sees all, and hears all, be played for such a chump? And then there is the enduring question: Who is Wendi Deng?
Top Shanghai Girl
The name of the woman in high boots and faux fur I meet in Beijing is Li Hong, and she says she was Wendi Deng's best friend when Wendi was still Deng Wen Ge, Chinese for "Cultural Revolution," a common name at the time, which expressed her parents' allegiance to the Communist Party. Wendi and Li Hong attended school together in Xuzhou, the polluted factory city of nearly three million where I had gone in an effort to research the origin story of the third Mrs. Murdoch.
"She wanted to be successful and a strong woman," says Li Hong over roast duck in a restaurant as she attempts to paint the Xuzhou where she and Wendi grew up. Forget about boyfriends, cars, or movies, Li Hong tells me. There wasn't even light. "The lights went off at seven P.M.," she says. Until they went on again the next morning, Wendi would study, sleep only three hours, then awaken at three or four A.M. to "read English," says Li Hong. Because English was a way out.
Wendi's father was the manager of Xuzhou's engineering factory, earning 300 yuan ($50 today) a month. "Her family was relatively better off than the rest of us," says Li Hong admiringly. "They lived in an apartment unit in a building, about 500 square feet, three bedrooms, very stingy." I had stood outside that housing complex, a clothesline-crisscrossed building just off a main thoroughfare, where Wendi lived with her parents, two older sisters, a younger brother, and an ancient auntie. Still a hovel, in Wendi's time it had no hot water. "I grew up so poor in China that one day I aspired to have meat regularly," she would later say. "She tells you about growing up in total squalor," says a friend. "She had the hand-me-downs, and the parents focused on the boy." Wendi told British Vogue, "My parents were so tough. In the summer when everyone else was on vacation I had to study the whole textbook for next year so I would be ahead in class. . . . It had to be 120 per cent."
Her first successful arena was the municipal volleyball team. "She played the chief spiker," says Li Hong. Her grizzled old coach, Wang Chongshen, had pantomimed for me Wendi's spike, which he said foreshadowed her dogged aggressiveness in life. "She is determined. She was making every effort to achieve her goal," says Li Hong, who is now married to a Xuzhou policeman. "Look at me-no dream, no accomplishment." She is full of praise for her one friend who made it to America. "No one like her; she is the only one," she says. "Murdoch, such a media king, one of the richest men in the world, was attracted to her. He divorced his wife, which shows Wendi is outstanding, unusual. If someday you meet her, please tell her I really miss her."
When Wendi's father was transferred to Guangzhou, the former Canton, to manage a factory, Wendi stayed in Xuzhou, sometimes sharing a bunk bed with Li Hong in the sports dormitory until she could join her parents. She then enrolled in medical school, majoring in clinical treatment, but she concentrated more on learning English than on medicine. As she explained later, "In China, at that time, the idea of getting out and going to America was the stuff of dreams."
When she was 19, three years into her five-year medical-school program, and had changed her name from Wen Ge to Wendi, luck shone upon her in the form of a middle manager from Southern California named Jake Cherry, who had taken a temporary job in Guangzhou. "Take me off your list!" he shouted when I showed up at the office of his refrigeration company, in an industrial suburb of Los Angeles.
"I just want you to verify a few things," I told him.
"I'm not verifying anything!" he said.
Wendi Murdoch is a legend to the burgeoning subset of upwardly mobile young Chinese women known as Shanghai Girls, who employ everything in their power to seduce Western businessmen and, ideally, to move out of the country. "These are women who succeed at all costs," says Mina Hanbury-Tenison, whose 2010 book, Shanghai Girls, deals exclusively with the subject. "They will ask, What's the job? How much does he make? Does he have a mortgage?"
We are having dinner in Transit, a Beijing restaurant that is a favorite of Shanghai Girls and the men eager to meet them. "When Wendi got Rupert Murdoch, that was the ultimate," Hanbury-Tenison continues. "All the Shanghai Girls said, 'She married a billionaire and got a private jet.' People in other places say, 'Oh, what a gold digger.' But in Shanghai they say: 'Absolute success story! Most of all, she got the opportunity.' When a Shanghai Girl gets an opportunity, she uses it as a stepping-stone."
Wendi Deng's opportunity, Jake Cherry, was 50 when they met. He had traveled with his wife, Joyce, and their two children from Los Angeles to Guangzhou for a job "helping the Chinese to build a factory to make freezers for food-processing plants," according to an unflattering profile of Wendi published in The Wall Street Journal in 2000, seven years before Murdoch purchased that newspaper.
Among the first wave of Americans to travel to China as it was opening up to Western business, the Cherrys saw their relocation as a great adventure. Americans naturally relied on interpreters to navigate the country, and one day the Cherrys' interpreter asked if they would like to meet a young woman who was interested in improving her English. Many young women had flocked to the refrigeration plant in hopes of meeting the newly arrived Americans, but Wendi Deng stood out. When she was introduced to the Cherrys, she reportedly rushed right past Joyce to her husband.
"How much more Americana can you get?," Joyce Cherry Hinton asks me in an e-mail, before cutting off communication, saying she has promised her children never to speak about Wendi Deng. "Young family contracted to work in China. Takes the challenge. Is confronted by a determined young Chinese girl whose only chance of getting out of the billion population is to latch on to an overworked husband."
After tutoring Wendi in English, Joyce returned to California to put her two kids back in school. Jake, who had become "infatuated with the young woman," according to The Wall Street Journal, remained in Guangzhou. When Wendi expressed a desire to move to America to study, Jake called Joyce and asked her to fill out application papers for the girl to attend college near their home. The Cherrys became her sponsors, and when Wendi arrived, in February 1988, she shared a bunk bed in their San Fernando Valley home with their five-year-old daughter.
The new world quickly rewarded Wendi. "It was amazing," she would later tell Murdoch biographer Michael Wolff about her early menial jobs, such as "packing take-aways" in a Chinese restaurant. "I got paid $20 and worked from eleven o'clock in the morning to eleven o'clock at night. But you get a leftover soup to take home. . . . I gained like ten pounds." She was fired for dropping a tray, but she soon moved on to selling Avon door-to-door and working at an accounting firm, all the while starring in a torrid soap opera in the home of her American hosts.
I drove to the Cherrys' address in the L.A. suburb of La Crescenta, a small ranch-style house with a "FOR SALE" sign out front. Joyce was finally selling the place where the family had lived 25 years earlier. The marriage ended when she discovered photographs Jake had taken of Wendi "in coquettish poses" in his hotel room in Guangzhou, according to The Wall Street Journal. When her husband and Wendi "didn't return home some evenings," Joyce told the newspaper, she concluded that they were having an affair. She ordered Wendi out, and Cherry soon followed her.
Jake married Wendi in February 1990, and they lived in an apartment at 3239 Altura Boulevard, just around the corner from the Cherrys' house. Four months after their wedding, Jake discovered that his bride "had started spending time with a man named David Wolf," according to The Wall Street Journal. "Mr. Cherry was 53 at the time. Mr. Wolf was in his mid-20s, only a few years older than Ms. Deng."
Two years and seven months after their wedding-seven months longer than it took Wendi to get her green card-the couple divorced. "She told me I was a father concept to her, and it would never be anything else," Cherry told The Wall Street Journal, adding, "I loved that girl."
In October 2011, when Wendi was asked by British Vogue about her tumultuous relationship with the Cherrys, she confirmed everything with a single word: "Yep."
How Wendi Met Rupert
Kenneth Chapman and Daniel Blake, professors of Wendi's at California State University, Northridge, still marvel at her state-of-the-art personal-computer equipment (in the days when laptops were rare), her designer jeans ("a $200 pair!" says Blake), and a presentation she made using the 1991 Vanity Faircover of a naked, pregnant Demi Moore to illustrate an economics concept. She so excelled in her chosen field of macro-economics that she became a member of a group of four of the smartest students in the department. "Occasionally she would be absent for part of a week while she translated for a group of Chinese businessmen who were coming through-venture capitalists and politicians, apparently," says Blake.
Opportunity knocked again when Wendi met a fellow student, Yan Chen, who would soon be the wife of three-time Chinese Olympic gold medalist Li Ning, who ran Li Ning's International Gymnastics and Dance Academy, in nearby Chatsworth. After graduating from college, in 1993, Wendi became the gym's manager. By then she was apparently living with David Wolf, "who is 6 feet tall and looks more like a linebacker than a gymnast," according to a 1993 Los Angeles Times story about the gym. Wolf ran an import-export business in Culver City. "He was Wendi's boyfriend," Liang Zhao, a former instructor at the gym, tells me. Soon she was introducing herself as Wolf's wife, although they weren't married. Some reports claim that Wolf and his mother helped pay Wendi's tuition to get an M.B.A. at the Yale School of Management, where she enrolled in 1995. (Wolf has steadfastly refused requests to talk about Wendi. "Whatever happened between them left him deeply wounded," says a friend.)
"She went from Cal State, Northridge, to Yale, and she came back and she told us that she had a nice job. I guess she was working for ESPN and Chinese broadcasting or something," says Professor Chapman. "She was wearing dark glasses and said she had had some sort of cosmetic surgery."
In 1996, to fulfill Yale's requirement that M.B.A. candidates serve an internship, Wendi landed a prized summer spot at Star TV (Satellite Television Asian Region) in Hong Kong, which News Corp. had purchased a controlling interest in for $525 million in 1993. How she got the internship is part of Wendi Deng lore. It has been widely reported that somehow, as a student, she bought a first-class ticket from New York to Hong Kong and had a seat next to Bruce Churchill, then Star TV's C.O.O. But Churchill tells me he met Wendi in Los Angeles through a producer at Sony Pictures, who was a Yale School of Management alumnus. "He called me and said he had met this first-year student who was looking for a summer job," says Churchill.
Thus Wendi became a foot soldier in Rupert Murdoch's priority crusade at the time: to bring free-market television to China.
China represented an almost impossible challenge: a country of more than a billion potential viewers ruled by a Communist government that not only didn't want Rupert Murdoch and Western-style TV but also would do everything in its power to thwart him. Murdoch enraged China's leaders by saying, in a London speech in 1993, that "advances in the technology of telecommunications have proved an unambiguous threat to totalitarian regimes everywhere." China's premier banned private ownership of satellite dishes.
Conquering China became paramount in Murdoch's mind. "China, China, China and China," he once replied when asked about the future of his company.
Star TV carried only five channels when News Corp. purchased it, including MTV Asia, BBC News, and one with syndicated programs from the U.S. But Murdoch saw it as much more. "With a footprint across an area from the Philippines, China, Southeast Asia, India, and the Middle East, Star TV had the potential to reach two-thirds of the world population," wrote Bruce Dover, a former executive at News Corp. and the author of Rupert Murdoch's China Adventures. "Murdoch was absolutely mesmerized." In 1994, Star TV dropped BBC News from its programming in an attempt to gain favor with government leaders.
Murdoch's obsession with China accompanied a midlife crisis. His marriage to his second wife, Anna, the mother of three of his four children, had gone stale. They seldom spoke, and when they did it usually involved Anna's urging her husband to retire. She wanted him to stop working and stay at home with her in Los Angeles, or on their 155-foot sailing yacht,Morning Glory, which they had purchased for their sunset years. "You're a perpetual-motion machine," she was once quoted as saying, when Rupert, then 64, expressed a desire to spend more time in New York. "I've had enough of keeping pace with you. I'm staying in L.A."
Murdoch's relationship with his wife had wound down to "Yes, dear" telephone conversations, according to Dover. "She wants me to slow down, spend time at home, go to all these silly functions," Dover quoted Murdoch as saying.
"I was devoted to Anna, and she and Rupert had the most wonderful marriage," Dame Elisabeth Murdoch told the Australian magazine The Age in December 2008 in an interview to commemorate her upcoming 100th birthday. "I remember Rupert telling me that they weren't happy and they were having counseling and I said, 'Rupert, you're going to be terribly lonely, and what will happen is the first designing woman will come along and will snap you up.' He said, 'Don't be ridiculous, Mum, I'm too old for that.' But that's exactly what happened."
'It was an extraordinary challenge in an exciting time," says Star TV C.E.O. Gary Davey of Murdoch's mission in China. With it came Wendi, bright and aggressive, her words spilling out in a torrent of broken English. "She was self-confident, optimistic, brave," says Davey. "She was very well liked . . . and she had the courage to jump on a plane to Beijing and organize meetings with a large number of mid-level Chinese-administration officials. With focus, she could have been a very senior executive in a major company." But Wendi had higher aspirations. "Her ambition was to become rich and famous," says one of her Star TV colleagues.
In "Wendi Deng Murdoch," an article in the Australian magazine The Monthly in 2007, Eric Ellis wrote:
A Star colleague remembers Wendi's first week of work, in May 1996, when she set about introducing herself to the mostly male, mostly expatriate-Australian executive staff. "We were all there to learn, learn, learn-to suck in knowledge-but Wendi would say, 'I'm going to meet that guy,' " the colleague recalls. "So she would waltz in to someone important's office, unannounced, and exclaim, 'Hello, I'm Wendi, I'm the intern . . . um, who are you?' It was excruciating. It made some people uncomfortable, but she would get away with it; in fact, she perfected it."
One executive remembers her interaction with a colleague, Robert Bland, who ran the advertising department and whose ability to bring in revenue made him an important player. "He could get away with smoking these pungent cigarillos and wearing a ponytail around the office," the executive recalls. Bland soon caught Wendi's attention. The day after she had been introduced to him, he was walking down the corridor past her room. Recalls the executive, "Wendi, this intern, rushes out and grabs Bland's pony-tail, in front of all of us. And she gives it a yank and says in this squeaky voice, 'Hi, Robert! I'm Wendi! Remember me? I'm the intern,' and she just cackles with this kiddie laugh, 'Ha ha ha ha ha.' Bland was not particularly friendly in the office, and he turns around with this I-can't-believe-someone-did-that-to-me look and sees Wendi standing there, grinning and saying, 'Hi-ii, it's Wendi, I'm the intern,' and he just melts. That was the day we all got what she was about."
"I was the first Chinese woman there to be a manager-usually the women pushed the tea trolley," Wendi would say later. By then her internship had turned into a full-time job, as vice president of business development.
In 1997, Murdoch addressed his Star TV staff in a town-hall-style meeting to inaugurate the company's new headquarters, in the Hong Kong quarter of Kowloon. Following a series of flattering questions about Murdoch's genius and triumphs, Wendi Deng, then 28, rose up tall and confrontational. "Why is your business strategy in China so bad?" she asked.
The room turned silent, and then the mighty Murdoch spoke. "He gave an explanation, and she said, 'That's not a good explanation,' " says someone who attended the event. "So he said a little more, and then he said, 'Does that satisfy you?' And she said no. And she came up and talked to him afterwards. So she made an impression."
Even the people working most closely with Wendi at Star TV knew little about her background. "All we knew is that she was at Yale for her M.B.A. and had spent time in California," says Bruce Dover. So when Murdoch returned to Hong Kong a few months later and needed someone to accompany him as his interpreter and guide on a quick trip to Shanghai, Gary Davey called Wendi. "I gave her the brief: 'There's someone important that you've got to meet in Hong Kong, arrange travel documents and hotel in Hong Kong, and take him to Shanghai,' " Davey remembers.
"O.K.," said Wendi.
"Aren't you going to ask me who it is?" asked Davey.
"And when I told her, she said, 'O.K.,' " he continues. "It was typical of Wendi not to bat an eye or be intimidated."
The Conquest of Everest
Murdoch, Wendi, and Bruce Dover set off for Shanghai, where Dover had work to do, so he left Rupert with Wendi for a tour, according to Dover's book. At six the next morning he found them in the hotel gym, he says, "pounding away on the exercise bike. There was a spark there."
"Where can I go to disappear?," Murdoch soon asked a friend, who arranged for a private residence, where Murdoch and Wendi spent a few days.
"Did she seduce him?," I ask someone close to the couple.
"Of course," comes the answer. "This is a relentless march."
"Look, you may have noticed Wendi isn't back from vacation," Murdoch told Davey when they emerged. "She is currently with me, and she won't be coming back to Star TV."
Wendi then did the unimaginable: she told Rupert Murdoch no.
"When he met me, he felt he could start a new life he would enjoy," she would later say on Chinese TV. "There was a new culture he was eager to know around him. He was pondering, because at that time his marriage was in trouble. They began to separate. He wanted to be with me, and I said no."
The interviewer is speechless for a moment.
"Because I thought, How can I be with you?" Wendi continues. "I need a good job. I started from China and have worked so hard to get a degree from a prestigious university. Now I have a good job. If the relationship fails, then I lose everything. He said, 'Don't worry. I will marry you.'"
The interviewer exclaims, "Very smart! You got everything settled in one step! Otherwise, if you were dumped after a relationship with him for a while, you would not be able to keep the position in his company."
News of their romance provided payback time for the British tabloid press. First blood: a February 1999 cover story in Punch, headlined, MURDOCH'S MISTRESS, THE SECRET LIFE OF THE WOMAN WHO SNARED THE BIG ONE. "Viagra-chomping Rupert Murdoch has been dating a Cantonese cutie," wrote Hong Kong correspondent Steve Vines. "A colleague said: 'The boss may be old enough to qualify for a bus pass, but they giggled like lovestruck teenagers.'"
Anna Murdoch was not only exiled from Rupert's life but also ousted from the News Corp. board. "I think that Rupert's affair with Wendi Deng-it's not an original plot-was the end of the marriage," she told The Australian Women's Weekly in her only interview.
Seventeen days after his divorce from Anna, Rupert married Wendi on his boat Morning Glory in New York Harbor in front of 82 guests, ranging from the late Russian billionaire Boris Berezovsky to Wendi's parents. "Rupert gave a long speech-that he loved her and would take care of her, forever and ever," remembers one of the guests. Wendi, her hair then pixie short, her adoring gaze fixed on her groom, was barefoot.
By the time of the wedding, Rupert was well into a deepening relationship with Tony Blair. From 1997 to 2007, the two men virtually ran Great Britain, as the press lord supported the politician through his various news operations, particularly The Sun, the most powerful newspaper in British elections. "No one could challenge them; they made each other unassailable," says a longtime observer. Blair won the elections of 1997, 2001, and 2005, and Murdoch, according to the Daily Mail, became the unofficial "24th member" of Blair's New Labour Cabinet. "The understanding between New Labour and Blair and News Corp. was that if they were given a pretty fair rein to pursue their business interests, that we would receive political support through those newspapers," the Daily Mail quoted Lance Price, a former member of Blair's communications team, as saying. "It's not in writing. There is no trail of emails or texts. But I think Tony Blair himself would accept that the relationship was too close."
Blair denied any such deal, but Murdoch's support helped keep him in office for 10 years, and Murdoch and his businesses flourished in the U.K. Although Blair, with Murdoch's urging, led Great Britain into the Iraq War, he was publicly viewed as a good, God-fearing husband to Cherie, his barrister wife of 33 years, and a beloved father to their four children. In 2008 he created the Tony Blair Faith Foundation to fight "religious prejudice, conflict and extremism." According to one friend, "Tony Blair goes to bed with a Bible."
Soon, however, a bomb started ticking in one of the most powerful alliances in the history of British politics as rumors reached Murdoch of a growing relationship between Blair and Murdoch's bewitching young wife.
In New York, the newlyweds lived in a suite at the Mercer hotel while their 9,300-square-foot SoHo triplex was remodeled, and Murdoch was reborn under the direction of his Chinese wife: his hair darkened, he ate strictly Chinese food, he began a tough yoga regimen, and his old suit-and-tie wardrobe was replaced by black pants and turtleneck sweaters.
"I saw she wasn't very nice to her husband," says a Chinese friend. "Her voice, very rude! When you speak English, what you say can be very mean." The friend joined the newlyweds for dinner one night at the Mercer, where Murdoch, who had a cold, dared to stick his chopsticks into the communal serving plate. "Wendi said, 'Rupert! Don't do that! How many times I told you?' " says the friend.
No one disputes that he loved her. "I was the chief representative for News Corp. in Shanghai," Scarlett Li tells me in Beijing, recalling a time when she met Murdoch at the Shanghai airport. He invited her onto his plane, where he pulled out a paper. "It was a list of things Wendi wanted him to get for her in China: bird's nest, which we make into soup, and it makes your skin look better; some candy; Chinese medicines; snacks you don't get in the U.S. I thought, Lucky Wendi. Here is a man who runs a multi-national company. He flies 15 hours from the U.S. to China, and the first thing he asks the staff to do is the shopping list. He was definitely in love."
During these early years, Wendi's job was Rupert, and her role included redecorating all their homes, starting with the SoHo apartment. "I keep on making mistakes, and we have to rip things out and start all over again," she told Bruce Dover. She finally hired the famed French designer Christian Liaigre, and the triplex-after consultation with a feng shui master-became a showplace.
"She got gradually more assertive," says someone who has spent time with the couple on St. Barth's. "First it was just 'I'm this nice Chinese lady, here to make him happy, and I don't want kids.' Then it was 'I want kids.' She escalated over the years in terms of bullying him."
Conception was an issue because Murdoch was diagnosed in 2000 with prostate cancer. That, Wendi told Michael Wolff, drove the couple to have children, by collecting and freezing semen before Murdoch began radiation. "Because after radiation, you are not so sure," she said.
On November 1, 2000, while Wendi was undergoing in-vitro fertilization to have her first child, The Wall Street Journal published an exposé about her past, which she and Murdoch had attempted unsuccessfully to squelch. "Wendi was very nervous," says a colleague in China. The article, "Rupert Murdoch's Wife Wendi Wields Influence at News Corp.," spilled the salacious details of how Wendi had broken up the marriage of Jake and Joyce Cherry-which neither Murdoch nor his legions of underlings apparently knew about. Nevertheless, he and his children decided to give Wendi "the benefit of the doubt," according to someone close to the couple.
Thanks to guidance from Michael Milken, the former junk-bond king and a fellow prostate-cancer survivor, Murdoch was soon in remission and became the father of two daughters.
Shortly after the birth of Grace, the elder, in 2001, Wendi told Bruce Dover, "I'm not going to be a stay-at-home society wife."
Heirs of Her Own
She quickly returned to work, traveling to China with Murdoch's younger son, James, who had been dispatched by his father as chief executive of Star TV. By then she had met Queen Elizabeth and redecorated another of the Murdoch homes. With her new name came the guanxi, the Chinese term for connections, and she used them to court China's super-elite. "Wendi was obviously the last person to have Murdoch's ear each evening, so I think she did have a good deal of influence," says Dover. "When we made some inroads on major deals, [then Viacom C.E.O.] Sumner Redstone, who is very competitive, said, 'I too want a Chinese wife,' " says Liu Heung-shing, who served as News Corp.'s executive vice president in China.
Although some debate the extent of Wendi's influence, in the end the strategy for China implemented by her and others at Star TV "was probably counter-productive," says Dover. "She thought that the guanxi-the relationship with the sons of the powerful-would provide this umbrella of protection, and they could push beyond the barriers. But that ended up very badly backfiring, and the Chinese cut them right down." (This past January, 21st Century Fox sold the company's remaining interest in Star China TV to China Media Capital.)
Back in New York, Wendi became the "brand-manager of Brand Rupert Murdoch," according to Michael Wolff, joining him in a new world of society, technology, and the arts. She and Murdoch loved to gossip about the boldfaced names in the tabloids, and soon Wendi became part of that group. "She would call me and say, 'I'm doing a photo shoot with Annie Leibovitz. . . . Nicole Kidman was at our house for dinner,' " says a friend who attended a few gatherings at the Murdochs', where the banter between husband and wife was "like Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon. He contributed the gravitas, and she contributed the lighthearted commentary. He would be going on about something [in business], and she would turn to everybody else and say, 'Oh, Rupert just wants to control the entire media . . . ha, ha, ha,' and slap her knee."
Their circle of friends soon included David Geffen, Larry Ellison, Bono, Sergey Brin and Larry Page (whom Wendi called "the Google guys"), Barry Diller, Diane von Furstenberg, Sarah Brown (wife of former British prime minister Gordon Brown), Queen Rania of Jordan, Barbara Walters, Vera Wang, and Arianna Huffington. Through his wife's influence, Rupert became almost hip, serving with Bono as waiters at a World Economic Forum dinner in Davos, Switzerland, and riding a camel in Jordan, where Grace and Chloe were baptized on the bank of the river Jordan, attended by godparents Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, and Tony Blair. When it came to business, Wendi played a key role; she handled Rupert's after-hours e-mails when News Corp. purchased the publisher of The Wall Street Journal for $5.3 billion. And she continued her house remodeling, at one point simultaneously restoring a vast walled-courtyard house in Beijing-"fit for an emperor," according to one observer-and the former Laurance Rockefeller triplex on Fifth Avenue, one of the finest residences in Manhattan, with 20 rooms and 4,000 square feet of terraces.
Sarah Ellison writes in her 2010 book, War at the Wall Street Journal, "Wendi would complain to the other mothers at the Episcopal School, who mocked the heavy Chinese accent of the nouvelle arriviste. 'Rockefeller apartment, fifty-point-eight million,' they would say, replacing the Ls with Rs to mimic Wendi's staccato speech. 'But we had to put twenty million into it. Gut renovation.' They whispered more, in front of the school, as the chauffeur and the nanny climbed out of the black S.U.V. with tinted windows and dropped the girls off. 'Those poor things. They never see their parents.' "
The girls were hardly neglected. Thanks to Wendi, they were both fluent in Chinese. "Everybody at home speaks Mandarin except me," Murdoch said playfully on Chinese TV. "So they only tell me what they think I need to know." Grace and Chloe went on to attend Brearley, the exclusive private girls' school in Manhattan. One friend remembers, "Wendi would say, 'Look at my daughters! So beautiful and so rich!' "
They were soon even richer-equal beneficiaries of the Murdoch Family Trust. "It's a dynastic struggle," says one longtime Murdoch associate. It began with Murdoch's divorce from Anna. "She could have taken him to the cleaners, 50 percent of everything, since she was an integral part of building up his global empire. She settled for a couple hundred million instead, in exchange for enshrining the kids as beneficiaries of the Murdoch empire."
That divorce came with a promise to Anna that Murdoch's older children-Lachlan, James, Elisabeth, and Prudence, his daughter from his first marriage-would be the sole beneficiaries of the Murdoch Family Trust, which controls 38.4 percent of the voting shares of News Corp., whose current market value, along with its now sister company, 21st Century Fox, is approximately $92 billion.
Despite a pre-nuptial agreement, followed by two post-nuptial agreements, in 2002 and 2004, Wendi began pressuring her husband to include their daughters as equal beneficiaries, which reportedly concerned Anna.
In the office of New York attorney James Napoli, a woman named Ying-Shu Hsu told how she had been hired as a nanny to teach a couple's daughters Mandarin, and how she had traveled with the family to a number of their homes. In an accident, she said, she fell and broke her kneecap, and she felt that the couple didn't properly compensate her for her injury. The couple's name? "Rupert and Wendi Murdoch," the nanny told the attorney, who filed a lawsuit on her behalf.
The lawsuit dragged on for years and was eventually dismissed, but before Ying-Shu Hsu faded away, she took her story to Gawker, the Web site, whose headline on July 18, 2012, read, "IT WAS LIKE A WAR ZONE": A FORMER NANNY FOR RUPERT MURDOCH AND WENDI DENG SPEAKS OUT.
Working for the Murdochs, beginning in 2004, was an assignment in hell, the nanny said, describing Wendi as a cheap, petty, f-word-screaming, fiery-tempered dominatrix, who terrified her household staff, which in New York alone included two secretaries, one cook, two housekeepers, a nanny, a tutor, and a laundry person. "Everyone who works for her hates her and is scared of her," the nanny said.
"She also curses Rupert all the time," the nanny continued. "A lot of f-words. She's always yelling, crying. Murdoch is the calm type."
On Christmas night 2004, however, the Murdoch household allegedly exploded. "They were fighting all night over the estate for the kids," the nanny recalled, referring to Wendi's crusade to include her daughters as equal beneficiaries. "The marriage isn't great," she continued. "A lot of times they slept separately."
A publicist for the Murdochs released a statement saying, "The Murdochs' workers' compensation insurance policy covered her injury and offered her compensation, but Ms. Hsu chose instead to pursue legal action. A state court dismissed her claims, ruling that they were 'inadmissible' and 'unpersuasive.' Having failed in court, she has apparently turned to the media with unfounded and untrue accusations. We will not dignify them with comment."
Wendi's campaign for her daughters next spilled onto Charlie Rose, where, on July 20, 2006, Murdoch pronounced, apparently without his wife's knowledge beforehand, that his two daughters with her would receive equal shares in the trust but would have no voting rights. Shortly after that, Murdoch gave all six of his children, including his younger daughters, $150 million in cash. Once the younger daughters turn 30, they will have voting shares in the trust, I was told.
'From being happy being Mrs. Murdoch to having her own persona? I saw it gradually start to pick up," says a friend of the couple's.
"Chris said, 'Do you want to go to dinner with Wendi and Rupert?' " remembers Lori DeWolfe, the estranged wife of Chris DeWolfe, the co-founder of MySpace, who was later alleged to be one of Wendi Deng's lovers. They met at Matsuhisa in Los Angeles to discuss the 2006 News Corp. retreat, which would be held in Pebble Beach, with speakers Bono and Tony Blair. News Corp. had acquired MySpace and its parent company, Intermix, for $580 million the year before, and the Web site's monthly users had since grown from 21 million to 54 million. At the dinner to discuss the retreat, Lori was eight months pregnant. "I said, 'That's when our baby is due,' and Wendi said, 'Oh, Chris'll just fly back for that. Ha ha.' "
With her husband, Wendi was "irreverent," playfully teasing him "like he was a 12-year-old boy," says Lori, except when it came to the subject of work. Wendi was talking about a new project on the horizon: taking MySpace to China.
Two and a half months later, Wendi, Chris DeWolfe, and others engineered a massive rollout of MySpace China, with Wendi as chief of strategy. Wendi, DeWolfe, and their team flew off to China on a company plane. With the new company and the increasing closeness between Wendi and DeWolfe came suspicions, even at the Los Angeles Times, which reportedly was persuaded by News Corp. to kill a story about their purported affair. "They were on the phone a lot," says Lori. "Especially during off-hours. And she moved her office right next to Chris in Beverly Hills. I won't say that they had an affair."
Later, Chris would rent a house near Rupert and Wendi's 11-bedroom house in Beverly Hills. But by then MySpace had been so overpowered by Facebook that News Corp. would eventually sell the company, which it had bought for $580 million, for $35 million.
(A spokesperson for DeWolfe, who denied rumors of an affair in the Telegraph last year, states, "MySpace was an international organization spanning over 10 time zones; hence Mr. DeWolfe was frequently on the phone in the evenings with the leaders of MySpace's satellite offices, especially Japan, Australia, and China, [where] Ms. Murdoch was the chief of strategy. All of the executives at MySpace had offices in an executive suite on the 2nd floor of the Beverly Hills Maple Drive office (as is typical with most companies). Mr. DeWolfe has not seen Ms. Murdoch or Mr. Murdoch since he left MySpace in May 2009. He rented a house near Beverly Hills, a year after he left MySpace, from April 2010 through October 2010.")
"Wendi took control-she would be the digital guru for [News Corp.], and Rupert didn't understand [technology]," says a former Murdoch lieutenant. "Which started her going out to Silicon Valley. She would meet these switched-on guys in Silicon Valley, and they would go to New York to meet with the bankers, then go out on the town, while Rupert would go to bed with his Ovaltine. One of the venues she liked in New York was the Box [impresario Simon Hammerstein's risqué nightclub and cabaret, which was open from 11 P.M. to dawn]. By then, the bloom was off the marriage, and they lived almost separate lives. I believe they were like ships passing in the night. Rupert gets up at six in the morning, and she would just be coming home from the Box."
Meanwhile, Wendi just kept moving on. "She wanted to have a second career as a film producer," says someone who worked on her first movie.
Through her husband's connections, Wendi had Hollywood at her command. One of Murdoch's movie studios, Fox Searchlight, was set to distribute her first film, which would be financed by IDG China Media, an arm of the Chinese media powerhouse whose principals, one of them tells me, wanted to do business with News Corp. Wendi's co-producer on the movie was Florence Sloan, wife of Harry Sloan, a longtime Murdoch friend and former C.E.O. of MGM. Florence, a lawyer and the daughter of a Malaysian property developer, who for a time owned an Asian import boutique called Tigerjade, had taken Wendi under her wing when she was new to Los Angeles, teaching her the fine points of fashion and style. Soon Wendi, who had once said she washed her face and her clothes with the same soap, was as regally dressed as Florence, and her "closet compound" in her Fifth Avenue apartment was so immense that she gave tours of it during a party celebrating the 2011 launch of The Daily, News Corp.'s short-lived iPad newspaper.
The women called their production company Big Feet (in Mandarin, it's also the expression for "first step"), received advice from such veteran producers as Brian Grazer, and hired Wayne Wang (The Joy Luck Club) as their director. They made the film in China, primarily in Chinese. Based on the best-selling novel Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, it traces the lifelong friendship of two women in 19th-century rural China.
"Which do you find more enjoyable? To work for your own news media or to work for Wendi's movie promotion?," Rupert was asked in an interview in China.
"My whole life is to work for her," he replied.
"Wendi traded very heavily on the News Corp. and Fox names in China . . . and relied on people to do favors for her," says a media observer in China. When the star, Zhang Ziyi, known for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, dropped out at the last minute, Wendi flew to Hong Kong to enlist a star of equal stature, Li Bingbing. When she learned that a Shanghai mansion that would be perfect for an integral scene had been rented by Prada, she called a contact at Prada and, "boom, we had the house," says a crew member. When a nightclub singer was required, Wendi called Hugh Jackman, and he arrived and sang-in Mandarin.
Other friends showed up on the set in China to lend moral support. "This guy was sitting there with a consumer-level camera," says a crew member. "And he strikes up a conversation. . . . Five minutes later, Wendi comes up and says, 'This is Eric Schmidt, C.E.O. of Google.' He was visiting Wendi. Those are the people she hangs with."
"Everyone was like, 'Oh, I love that Wendi Murdoch,' " says a friend. "She could be a bitch or a snob, but she wasn't. She was young and excited, like a teenage girl." Many of her friends hosted screenings of her movie and sang her praises in print. "Wendi is all about friendship between women," said Nicole Kidman. "She is the best publicist anyone could ever have," said Hugh Jackman after Wendi flew entertainment-industry heavyweights to see his one-man show in San Francisco.
Web sites followed her like a rock star, especially in China. One Chinese TV program showed early and later photographs of Wendi and Rupert, then focused on a video of the couple at the Shanghai International Film Festival in 2011. "Look at Wendi. She obviously plays the leading role," says the host. "She walked in the front fast, as she is so used to the spotlight. . . . But Murdoch just follows her closely behind. He appears to be the foil to Wendi Deng." After looking at a photo from 2013, he adds, "Wendi Deng's smile suggests a vicious and indifferent attitude. . . . It seemed as if they do not want to hide the fact they are falling apart. . . . The fairy tale love between Murdoch and Wendi Deng is gone forever."
Her role was no longer to be her husband's "great help and adviser," as Murdoch had once called her. She was now, as Newsweek put it, "Wonder Wendi," lighting up a series of increasingly prestigious rooms. "I love Wendi!" a leading Asian powerhouse tells me during a seated dinner in her opulent, art-filled home, where the other dignitaries at the table also express their admiration. Wendi's shining moment on the world stage came in 2011, when, after posing for Patrick Demarchelier in New York for a Vogue photo shoot to promote her film, she jetted off to London to support her husband as he was preparing to be grilled about phone hacking by News International, News Corp.'s British division. Two of Murdoch's tabloid editors would later stand trial.
On July 19 of that year, in front of the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee, when a British comedian charged at Rupert with a shaving-cream-filled pie, Wendi rose up in a volleyball-spike move, blocked the pie, and shoved it back into the attacker's face.
"She was Wendi Murdoch," says a friend. "Who is not going to pick up that phone or not reply? She was very good at networking. That BlackBerry thing working nonstop, all day long." A friend in China tells me, "You will find many versions of Wendi in China-that kind of can-do spirit, that extreme pragmatism. She's very positive, lively, clever about what she wants, and so full of life that she has a hard time finishing her sentences." Another friend adds, "She has enormous charm and spirit. It is difficult to resist her."
As for Rupert, he was "very supportive" of the film, she was quoted as saying, and he not only "read 22 versions" of the script but also "watched many versions of the edit." He even flew to her side to promote the movie. "Also, when I was away, he'd stay at home with the kids, which was really nice."
She was away increasingly, at the Oscars, the Met Gala, Art Basel, and even a dinner for Chinese president Hu Jintao at the White House, which she attended alone. Soon, even when the Murdochs were together, they were apart. "Rupert would go home, and she'd keep partying," says a friend. "She was shy and unassuming, and then she became star-crazy! She was like, 'I have to have fun! Let's go party! Let's go to this party and that party.' She never wanted to stop." Another friend adds, "She loves that whole thing out there, that social being. You're Rupert Murdoch. You don't want to sit at a party by yourself while your wife's going around. You could feel his loneliness." For once, Murdoch's billions were useless. "What does money do here?" asks that friend. "Money can't buy the ocean and the sunset. She's tough.Rupert! Rupert, let's go! Not being soft. Yelling. He doesn't react. He would ignore it. I've never seen him get mad or upset. But now? Devastated. Betrayed. Hurt. He's Rupert Murdoch, but he's a human being."
"There were fights all the time," says a friend who spent time with them on St. Barth's. "Too many to mention. It would start with how he was dressed. Or the schedule for the kids. Or something the nanny said. Just anything would set her off. It would be like flipping a switch. She would insult him, insult staff, scream, bark orders. Increasingly agitated."
Yet, on June 27, 2011, in a joint interview to promote Wendi's movie on the Chinese TV program Dialogue, they expressed their devotion.
"Who wouldn't fall in love with such a beautiful woman like her?," Murdoch said.
"I am getting along very well with my husband," said Wendi. "He is humble with me. He compromises on everything. When his two sons got married, he gave them suggestions, telling them to always listen to their wives. Because wives are always right."
The host asked, "Do you understand the saying in China . . . beating and scolding [means you are in love]?"
"Oh, yes, she is very tough, very tough," said Rupert. "A successful man needs a critical wife. It brings him down to earth."
Wendi added, "In Chinese culture, if I am strict to you and I criticize you, it means I love you. At home, I am very strict and tough. I often criticize and scold him and tell him, 'I am this way because I love you.' . . . Successful people always hear good things. . . . So I think I should be the person to tell him how he should improve and what is not good."
'At some point, she became much more interested-some would say obsessed-with social status and spending and a billionaire's lifestyle," says the friend who spent vacation time with the couple, adding, "Certainly noted in places like St. Barth's, where they would go on their 180-foot sailboat, and she preferred being with the [Russian oligarch] Roman Abramoviches and Dashas [his girlfriend] of the world on their much bigger boats.
"We noticed some behavior that was pretty poor," the source continues. "Instances of her throwing a phone at staff in close quarters and making contact." The pattern, which included verbal abuse, reportedly erupted in a shocking incident a year and a half ago. "She was extremely abusive to her husband in his London office," an individual who has worked for Murdoch told colleagues at the time, and the story circulated around the London office. "Someone had been helping her make business and social connections in her own career, and she wanted him to do something in the company. And Rupert just wasn't interested. And it set her off. She began screaming. There was a lot of profanity: 'Fuck you, Rupert! You're stupid! What are you going to do when I'm gone?' It was extremely vicious." The staff member was "rattled" and didn't want Rupert to be alone with his wife, "for fear that it could get physical."
It allegedly had gotten physical in early 2011, in the triplex on Fifth Avenue in New York. "She got angry at him and shoved him, and he fell backwards into the piano in the living room and then onto the floor, and he couldn't get up," says an individual to whom Rupert confided at the time. "He had to have emergency treatment that night."
The former News Corp. employee in the U.K. adds, "He clearly hurt himself, and he made some excuse that he tripped over something in the office. He made excuses that he wasn't well. He only talked about what happened later." The source continues, "Ultimately, he just wanted to get through and not have any problem in the marriage made public. Because he wanted to have the children protected and believe they were in a nice, happy home."
Had Rupert Murdoch really gone soft when it came to his young Chinese wife? Or did he merely tolerate her while he devised an exit strategy?
He found it, some insist, when yet another man attracted Wendi's attention.
'He's so sexy!," Wendi gushed to friends over Tony Blair when the prime minister and his wife, Cherie, joined the Murdochs on their yacht. Blair works out regularly, wears Tom Ford suits, and was once voted "Torso of the Week" by Heat magazine in the U.K. Several years ago, when he was in his 50s, he described his sexual appetite as inexhaustible.
Like Jake Cherry and Rupert Murdoch, Tony Blair went to China on business, and there he too spent time with Wendi Deng. "She was actively helping Blair in China, in terms of raising money and introducing him," says the source who has worked for Murdoch. One of Blair's businesses is his much-criticized Tony Blair Associates consultancy, a for-profit operation that, some would have it, makes Bill Clinton's post-White House career seem cloistered. "This is a man who used his contacts book from Downing Street to launch a lucrative career advising absolute monarchs, wealthy bankers and despots," reported the Daily Mail. Blair, who reportedly earned more than $30 million in 2012, has served as a $4-million-a-year adviser to JPMorgan Chase, and for a 20-minute speech he gave in 2008 in China he was paid the equivalent of $500,000. He received an $8 million advance for his memoir, A Journey: My Political Life.
The Blairs reportedly have five homes, including the late actor Sir John Gielgud's 18th-century mansion outside London, near Chequers, the prime minister's country residence. Their sexual passion began on the top of a No. 74 London bus, Cherie Blair has written. In hismemoir, Tony Blair wrote that he "devoured" his wife's love: "I was an animal following my instinct." In 2005, asked by The Sun if he could have sex five times a night, Blair, who was suffering from a slipped disk, replied, "At least. I can do it more, depending on how I feel."
"Are you up to it?," Cherie was asked.
"He always is!" she responded.
To say that many women find Blair attractive seems an understatement. But to spend time with him, one would have to circumnavigate his security squad and his chief of staff, Catherine Rimmer, of whom Wendi wrote in her note to herself, "Katherine Rimmer does not like me because she does not want Tony gets in trouble with me."
They met often: in Beijing, which Blair visits several times a year, usually staying in the Presidential Suite of the Grand Hyatt; in the hotel's Redmoon sushi bar, where Blair showed up unexpectedly to sing Wendi's praises while she was being interviewed by Vogue; in the Murdochs' house beside the Forbidden City, where Blair, Wendi, and Rupert frequently interacted.
Later, Rupert would lament that he was galled by the sense of permission he felt had been bestowed on Wendi by her close friend Kathy Freston, who once wrote about listening to "the inner workings of your heart and mind." She said, "If you are tempted to have an affair, be aware that this too is an opportunity to expand your consciousness. . . . Forbidden love-the desire to be with someone you are not 'allowed' to be with-stirs that unfulfilled and empty part of yourself that you may have forgotten was even there."
Some of those who doubt the alleged Blair relationship say that the divorce was a well-planned move against Wendi, which reportedly began last February, four months before Murdoch filed for it. The Murdochs' 15th anniversary was coming up in June 2014. Their pre-nuptial agreement stipulated that Wendi stood to gain more with each passing year they were married. A friend of Rupert's says, "Given everything that came to light, saying that it was for money is a joke."
Murdoch's elder son, Lachlan, allegedly told his father that people were talking about Wendi's entanglements. An e-mail from Wendi confirming one meeting with Blair, which she had inadvertently forwarded to others, led Rupert and his advisers deeper "down the rabbit hole," according to one source. Lawyers were enlisted, and Murdoch purchased a new house in Beverly Hills for $28.8 million-the 16-acre Moraga Vineyards, not far from his other house there. That February, a journalist allegedly confronted Wendi with divorce rumors, which she denied, indicating that she had no idea about Rupert's intentions.
In June of last year, the press lord made his move. "Don't fall in love with Rupert. He turns against lovers and chops them off," someone once told Andrew Neil, the former editor of Murdoch's Sunday Times. And that's what happened: on June 13, without warning his wife, Murdoch filed for divorce in a New York court. "It was classic Rupert: go on the attack," says a former News Corp. representative. "It's King Lear-ish. He can't take it if a loved one turns on him. Rather than have that happen, he went for the pre-emptive strike and got rid of her."
The divorce was announced by Nikki Finke on Deadline.com just hours after the papers were filed. Shortly after that, someone leaked the purported affair with Tony Blair. Within 24 hours, The Hollywood Reporter had run Blair's denial of any affair. Murdoch confronted neither Wendi nor Blair with the allegations, and Blair's numerous calls to Murdoch went unanswered. "He made it clear through multiple people that Rupert had no interest in speaking with him again and he should stop calling," says someone who has worked with Murdoch.
Murdoch spent the evening of the divorce filing with his sons, Lachlan and James, in New York, then flew to Los Angeles the next day. "Given the fact that there was abuse before, and that she was extremely emotional, [they] didn't want her alone with him, much less under the same roof," says the source.
"We don't have anything further to discuss," Murdoch told Wendi when she called him. Wendi also spoke to Florence Sloan, according to a friend. "She told Florence, 'Rupert is divorcing me. I don't know why. I didn't do anything.' "
"He gave instructions that the filings be made public after the girls had broken from school, so he could tell them privately," says someone close to the couple. "But he filed without telling Wendi and then told her [through his lawyer]. Friends of theirs said she was very shook up."
She hired the premier New York attorney William Zabel to represent her. After five months of negotiation, the divorce was settled in November. The details were sealed. However, one source says, Deng received the Rockefeller triplex on Fifth Avenue ("worth between $60 and $70 million"), the vast walled-courtyard house in Beijing ("anywhere between $10 and $40 million"), and $14 million, one million for each year of marriage, per the couple's pre-nuptial agreement, plus jewelry and half of their art collection.
"Rupert and Wendi are still in close contact," says a person informed about the current situation. "They relate with each other as friendly parents do after a divorce. I wouldn't say it's affectionate, but it's very friendly. They have a good rapport, and they're both very good parents."
Wendi continues her work with Art.sy, the online source for art worldwide, which she helped establish with a star-studded group of investors, including Dasha Zhukova, the philanthropist and editor.
One insider says that she is also planning to invest in the single area in which her husband has routinely, and expensively, failed: technology. "Wendi has moved on," says the insider. "She's setting herself up to be a digital-technology investor and is taking meetings with cool start-up digital companies that need investors."
"Wendi is a fantastic woman and a great mother," says her friend the designer Diane von Furstenberg. "She is smart, quick, and a ball of fire. She was a very loyal wife, fierce at defending her husband as the whole world watched her reaction hitting the man attacking Rupert with a pie. I have watched Wendi grow from a reserved woman to a very engaged one, and I look forward to watching her shine even more in her new life."
Deborra-lee and Hugh Jackman say, "As friends of both Wendi and Rupert, as well as their daughters' godparents, we have always known them to be wonderful, loving parents. Their divorce has not changed this. It's always sad when people decide to go their separate ways, but Wendi and Rupert are friends and continue to focus on what's best for their kids."
Is there a victor in Murdoch v. Murdoch? "Rupert told me, 'I'm happier than I've ever been,' " says a friend. But someone who knows them both says, "I put my money on her. Because she's ruthless! The perfect ending of the story is she invests in 20 companies and one of them becomes Facebook. That's the perfect revenge, because that is the one area where Rupert has failed. MySpace is one of News Corp.'s worst investments. He paid $580 million and sold it for $35 million. He lost $545 million. So if Wendi succeeds, it is the perfect ending to the whole story. She knows the right people. Eric Schmidt? Who is better than that?"
In the aforementioned note to herself, Wendi wrote, "Eric fucks Lisa," presumably referring to Eric Schmidt and Lisa Shields, vice president of media affairs at the Council on Foreign Relations, whom Schmidt reportedly dated. "Lisa will never have my style, grace. . . . I achieved my purpose of Eric saw me looking so gorgeous and so fantastic and so young, so cool, so chic, so stylish, so funny and he cannot have me. I'm not ever feel sad . . . about losing Eric. . . . Plus he is really really ugly. Unattractive . . . and fat. Not stylish at all try to wear hip clothes. . . . I'm so so soo soooo happy I'm not with him."